Connect with us


Penguins Grades: Bad Luck, Bad Power Play, Sullivan Makes More Changes



Pittsburgh Penguins game, Seattle Kraken. Kris Letang, Marcus Pettersson

SEATTLE — In a city known for grunge, the Pittsburgh Penguins were a little too glam and stayed around the outside. Despite vastly outshooting the Seattle Kraken through 40 minutes 29-16.

It was a culmination of bad luck, a continually bad power play, and an inability to crack the Kraken’s interior defense in a 2-0 loss to Seattle at the Climate Pledge Arena.

Must Read: Pointless in Seattle, No Comeback for Penguins in 2-0 loss.

The Penguins struggled mightily to get inside the dots against the Seattle defense, which yielded possession but not the dirty ice. Seattle contently packed the zone while the Penguins fired away from the outside.

Evgeni Malkin had a couple of glorious chances in the final minute of the second period. Jansen Harkins had his best chance of the season at a goal later in the second period, too.

Harkins charged toward the net, but Seattle goalie Philip Grubauer gobbled up his deflection. Harkins also drew a penalty, and coach Mike Sullivan unveiled his latest Hail Mary power play change by putting Jeff Carter at the net-front spot.

No, that didn’t work either, and the Penguins trailed 1-0 despite outshooting Seattle 29-16.

The players and coach disagreed on the reasons for the lack of goals, but perhaps the coach protected his players, whereas Marcus Pettersson confirmed the Penguins didn’t go to the net.

“We could have gone to the net a little harder, created more traffic, and done a better job getting pucks through,” Pettersson summarized. “I think their D stepped in front of a lot of shots. We could have found some different avenues from the blue line, go to the net better — make it harder. I don’t think we got in (Grubauer’s) grill enough.”

The Penguins bad luck in February continued in the first period. The Penguins were dominating, but Alex Wennberg’s shot was mostly blocked. It fluttered high into the air toward the net where only Oliver Bjorkstand could see it. Despite blanket coverage by Penguins defenseman P.O Joseph, Bjorkstand knocked the puck into the twine.

“When it’s coming down from the ceiling, it’s tough to track,” Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry said. “I lost it for a split second, and they were able to get it before I did.”

Penguins Analysis

The graphic is from You don’t need a blown-up version to see the lack of heavy blue concentration anyway. That’s a medium blue, at best, in front of the Kraken net.

The Penguins got some quality looks, and good tip plays. However, it seems those great tips went wide, and the wristers were either beachballs for Grubauer or wide, as well.

What the Penguins did well: As Sullivan put it Thursday morning, when the Penguins forecheck well, they’re able to bring the defensemen forward and play “as fives.”

The Penguins stayed on the right side of the puck. Seattle didn’t get odd-man rushes or easy offense. The Penguins forecheck contested a lot of their breakouts.

The Penguins’ low-to-high game was OK. There were more rim-arounds than hard cycling, which probably was to the Penguins’ detriment. When they got to that game later in the third period, they really made headway, but it was too late. The defensemen were looking to shoot, but Seattle took away lanes.

The Penguins had long stretches of that coordinated play.

“I think that we played two-thirds of the game pretty well. We had a really good first period. I thought we had a pretty good second period,” said Jarry. “Obviously, they brought it to us a little bit more in the third. And they were able to able to capitalize on a weird bounce and one net drive. So we have to be a little stiffer around our net and just keep pushing.”

What the Penguins didn’t do well: Pettersson tagged one big fault. The Penguins didn’t make life difficult enough for Grubauer. The tip plays were 10 feet out rather than in the crease.

The Penguins were a little too content to control the puck on the perimeter instead of flooding the net front and letting it rip.

Penguins Report Card

Team: B

They did a lot right. They were faster than the Kraken, on loose pucks on the wall, and did the right thing by shooting from all angles to break up the Seattle cluster. However, they didn’t get that second puck in the scoring zone. Grubauer didn’t have to make more than one save.

The Penguins also played stout defensively. The first goal was as flukey as you’ll see all season. Just bad luck.

Power Play: F

It wasn’t that bad, but in three chances, it failed to score. This was a game when the power play desperately needed to create momentum and good vibes. The Penguins needed to make Seattle feel the heat, but instead, he was able to see the puck like a three-foot mackerel coming at him from the Pike Place Market.

Sullivan put Jeff Carter at the net front on the third attempt. Crosby filled the bumper spot and blasted away. Maybe that’s it. Let them just shoot until they’re tired and see if Carter can knock a few home.

O’Connor-Malkin-Puustinen: B?

How well do you grade the line that had the glorious chances? Malkin flashed some of his vintage game and unleashed a few good shots and had a couple of tips that looked like they would go in, only to zip wide. Advanced analytics show the line was underwater on shot attempts (4-6) but above water on high-danger scoring chances (2-1)

Bemstrom-Eller-Puljujarvi: B

It was tempting to dish an A. They had 12 of the 15 shot attempts, six of eight shots, and six of seven scoring chances while on the ice. Yet, I felt they didn’t take full advantage of their dominating zone time. You’d like your third line to lower their shoulders a little more and get ugly.

Chad Ruhwedel: D

I’m knocking a disproportionate number of points here because Ruhwedel had a few opportunities, especially in the first period, that he didn’t take. Pettersson wasn’t criticizing Ruhwedel when he said the defensemen had to find more lanes, but he could have. Ruhwedel had some lanes he didn’t take and had some ice he didn’t maximize. The result was stifling instead of empowering.

P.O Joseph: A

I’ve been remiss in grading Joseph. He’s been solid and playing his most aggressive hockey of the season. He was rough on Brandon Tanev at the net front, and fearless on the offensive blue line. Needless to say, I really like his game right now.